If I’m being honest, there are times when I see my Christian friends striving to be pure and not do things they find sinful like having sex or drinking or swearing, (or even skipping church) and I feel almost as if I played some kind of cheat card that allows me to be free from following the rules. Then I remind myself that these rules make no sense and are completely made up and breaking them actually causes no harm as long as you’re responsible. So while it may be true that atheists have fewer rules to follow, it’s also the logical and realistic position.
A few weeks ago when I was reading The God Delusion, I came across the term “consequentialism”. It’s a system of determining your morals depending on the consequences of your actions. From what I know, it seems like a reasonable way to decide what’s the better or worse thing to do in a given situation. To me, condemning actions that can have either very little to no consequences or even positive consequences is blatantly unnecessary.
I love to sleep in on Sundays when everyone else at my school has to get up before the sun, put on their nice clothes, and hop on a church van into town. I think of it as a perk of being an atheist, but just because it happens to be nice and convenient doesn’t mean it’s wrong or lazy. Just because church requires the commitment of getting up early and talking to people you don’t like and sitting on a hard pew and listening to a boring sermon doesn’t make you any better for doing it. I see it as unnecessarily torturing yourself for a few hours and getting nowhere.
This unnecessary self-discipline and self-torture seems to be something that Christians love to do though. I like to look at teen Christian girl blogs sometimes (I’m not sure why), and almost every single one I come across has at least one post (here and here are examples) about their battle with sexual purity and lustful thoughts. “I’m a good innocent Christian girl,” they say. “You would never think I struggle with…these temptations…but I do!” The blogs generally end up reminding their readers that their sexuality is a special amazing gift from Jesus (ew?) and he wants us to resist temptation and replace those “sinful feelings of lust” with love for Jesus (ew again!!).
I came up with an interesting way to try to stay objective when determining if something like this is “right” or “wrong”. If you think something you’re doing is bad, think of what’s actually bad about it. Consider someone like this who is concerned with “sexual sin”. If you think that’s bad, why? Is it because of actual dangers such as STIs and emotional harm, or is it just because the bible tells you that will send you to hell?
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be very, very careful about who you have sex with and at what age and using protection and so on and so forth, but why add more to it than there already is? Are reading “sensual novels” or listening to “provocative song lyrics” really causing monumental problems that deserve to be punished by burning in hellfire for eternity? For that matter, is consensual, safe sex between two adults who have been in a serious relationship for over four years worthy of a stern talking-to that’s replete with eternal concern and threats of fire and brimstone? (I suppose I am still a little bit salty about that…)
Anyways, if you were reading this thinking that atheists only don’t believe because we are resisting God’s authority and we would rather live like pigs in our sinful filth, then, well, I probably haven’t changed your mind. But hopefully you see a little more of where I get my morals from and why I don’t see anything wrong with doing what’s often considered to be detestable sins.